“Rosamund M. Danny,” a good friend of mine said in exasperation, “you’re flakier than an overbaked croissant.”
I looked up from my steaming mug of Horlicks. We were in an aggressively hipster cafe a stone’s throw from our university, and outside the rain was lashing down on the heads of the people waiting for the bus.
I’d been watching them: no buses had come for twenty minutes, and they were getting agitated. An androgynous figure in a grey mack had stomped to the corner, apparently to try and see the bus coming, and then huffed back shaking waterproof head.
It was true: I am flaky. When I type “plans” into my phone, it tries to autocorrect it to “unplanned unavoidable occurrence.” When I try and put an event into my calendar, the software doesn’t even try and hide its incredulity: “Are you sure?” it asks. “You’ve planned to go to York with Jade four times already; what makes you think it’s gonna happen this time?” My phone is a little passive aggressive.
I’d been trying to get into the habit of physically turning it off when I was with my friends – I’d noticed myself becoming one of those “checks Instagram any time the conversation stops flowing to feel less self-conscious” people – and no one likes that. It lay on the table beside my mug now, black screen reflecting the ceiling. I wondered whether, one day, screens would become so hardy that people would use them as coasters; for the time being, I thought, taking a sip of my drink, it was best not to risk it.
The Horlicks was substandard today: they’d not stirred it properly and there were undissolved lumps floating in the top. I took a pen from my pocket and swirled the liquid about, but to no avail: the surplus powder seemed chemically incompatible with the rest of the drink.
I couldn’t blame the cafe – a good mug of Horlicks is an art, after all. You have to introduce the water very slowly, stirring the powder into a thick paste. You can’t rush it: that’s how you end up with a watery monstrosity like the one I was faced with. A good Horlicks is a combination of time and care, that’s what I always say. You have to put your soul into it.
My friend was finishing her cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. She looked het up and tense.
“What did you say?” I asked.